Perth: Australian One-day skipper Ricky Ponting is still to be convinced on the value of all-rounder Shane Watson at international level.
The 20-year-old was heralded before the February-April tour of South Africa as the answer to Australia's quest for a genuine all-rounder. But neither Watson, Ponting's Tasmanian teammate, nor Victorian Ian Harvey enhanced their World Cup prospects with their performances in the seven-match series against the Proteas. Watson scored 37 runs at 9.25 while he went for just under six an over at an average of 154 in four matches. Harvey was marginally better with the bat and despite a better return of five wickets at 46.25 with the ball, was more expensive than Watson. "The all-rounder's spot is probably one we would like to make a little bit better," Ponting said upon arrival on Thursday after Australia's 5-1 One-day series win over the South Africans. "The all-rounders' performances weren't all that great in South Africa, what we need is a solid all-rounder heading into (the World Cup) next year." But Ponting admitted Watson had shown some encouraging glimpses in his few appearances. "I thought in the last game he looked really good with the bat," Ponting said. "His bowling has a little bit of improving to do and hopefully over the next 12 months he can play some more cricket and he'll keep on improving." But while the jury is still out on Watson, Australia's opening batting combination is looking more settled. Opener Matthew Hayden made Mark Waugh's old spot at the top of the batting order his for the time being after accumulating 254 runs at 42.33 while vice-captain Adam Gilchrist made 258 runs at 36.85. "Matty really learnt about his One-day role over there and it is good to go in and have an open mind with how we are going to play," Gilchrist said. "We were told that's our position and let's try and form a partnership that is as successful as something that Junior (Waugh) and I had been able to establish for a few years." Gilchrist said it was great to be back home following the Australian Cricket Board's decision not to tour Zimbabwe because of security concerns. "With all due respect to the situation in Zimbabwe, and Zimbabwean cricket, it is great to be home and I think all the players are looking forward to having a month they didn't have off before." The Australian team's next One-day series ahead of the 2003 World Cup in South Africa will be three matches against Pakistan starting at Melbourne's Colonial Stadium on June 12.
We still have not begun to miss the Waughs: Coach